In December, I had the opportunity to work with a pretty cool 8th grader, named Danae. You may have heard of her, if you pay attention to your Toronto local news stations. Her aunt Kaysie had originally written a Facebook post that went viral regarding an incident between Danae and her principal. Danae was the victim in the news story, whereby her principal, of Amesbury Middle School, lectured Danae on how inappropriate her hair was. At the time, Danae was sporting crochet braids. Crochet braids are a type of protective styling for afro-textured hair, extensions. The hair is cornrowed and extension hair is attached using a latch hook. Almost any type of hair can be crocheted in, so the amount of looks one can achieve is limitless. Danae’s hair was in crochet braids that looked like a natural afro at the time. If you didn’t know any better, you would have thought it was her real hair. Moving along.
So, I know what you’re thinking…what is wrong with an 8th grader wearing an afro? Well, apparently, her principal took issue with the afro wearing child and decided she was going to bring Danae into her office to inform her of how inappropriate her hair is aesthetically and how eventually, wearing an afro will limit your access to opportunity and success in life—to sum it up. Can you imagine? It is hard enough for kids/youth to make it through their school day, without having to hear crap like this from their principal, a person in a position of influence.
When I initially heard the story, I immediately became annoyed, frustrated, angry, and a small part of me felt betrayed. Let me explain. I felt betrayed because the principal was Black and female. Black and female. This situation was infuriating because we as women, are judged constantly on our appearance, and to be honest, Black women are judged more harshly. So, for this principal to take it upon herself and cast whatever inferiority complexes she had on Danae was inappropriate. I don’t know the principal, so I can’t diagnose her, but clearly her belief system concerning how Black people should present themselves is out of whack and she is disillusioned. Does this kind of thinking stem from self hate; was the principal told she wasn’t beautiful growing up; was she told that natural looking hair isn’t the way to go; was she told wearing your hair in its natural state won’t get you the career you want? I mean, who is to say where that thinking came from.
The sad part of this story is this principal’s mentality exists among many Blacks. I have mostly heard that this type of thinking came from older generations, and in many cases is sadly passed down. You would think we have come a long way with the Natural Hair Movement, but there is still work that needs to be done. I have a different perspective because I am a hair stylist, who specializes in afro-textured hair. I have a great client base and they are excited about their natural hair for the most part. Every once in a while, I meet someone who is thinking about going natural, who is holding on to some of the views that this principal holds. Surprisingly, age does not seem to play a role, as these views can come from younger or older people. I’m always kind of shocked when I hear that viewpoint and saddened at the same time. Imagine thinking that you won’t be able to get the job you want because you wear your hair in its natural state? Or gain a certain status in life because of your natural hair? How can someone live a full and authentic life thinking deep down they aren’t good enough for the world and they have to change to achieve their goals and dreams. This rhetoric can be very damaging to a young person’s self-esteem, and I think that is what frustrated me the most about this incident. We are supposed to be supporting each other. The good thing is that Danae has great people in her life who support and love her. I know this because I had a chance to work with Danae, and I have met her mother and younger sister. When I heard their story, I reached out to them and offered Danae a complementary crochet braid service, which she took me up on. Danae is one of the coolest kids I have ever met, and I was glad that I was able to support them in some way. That’s what community is about. The TDSB is still investigating this incident.
Unfortunately, we will probably see more of these types of incidences, before we see any real changes happen in the future. In the meantime, we have to instill in our children that they are beautiful inside and out and disregard Eurocentric beauty standards. We also have to build their confidence up, so that when these incidences happen they are somewhat equipped to deal with it. I know that is easier said than done. Even when this happens to adults, we sometimes aren’t prepared enough, which is why this struck a chord with many people. Danae, keep being you, you’re beautiful.